Nasoni, Rome’s unique drinking fountains

Few things come free in Rome but tourists and locals can always count on ice-cold drinking water from the 2,500 drinking fountains, the Nasoni, scattered about the city. So if you are dying for a chug of cold water, there’s no need to spend a small fortune on environment un-friendly bottled water. All you need to do is look for a nasone and drink all the fresh water you want–it’s free!

Roman Drinking Fountain

Nasoni are Rome’s free drinking fountains, and they are virtually everywhere. First installed in 1874, they are a symbol of the city.

One of the many accomplishments of the ancient Roman empire was their extensive aqueduct systems. Across the empire they built tunnels and arched bridges carrying fresh spring water from the mountains into the cities. Today, Rome drinking fountains continue to provide its people with abundant, clean drinking water.



Unique drinking fountains

When walking through the streets of Rome you will pass dozens of nasoni, big nose-fountains in Italian. Fresh, cold water constantly pours from these unique drinking fountains. Carrying around a water bottle will save around €1.50 with every refill. If you don’t have a water bottle there’s a neat design feature that makes drinking straight from the fountain easy. Hold your hand over the end of the spout to block the water flow and watch it stream out in a thin arch from the top of the spout!



A more rare find are the fontanelle, little fountains. These fountains, typically built against a wall, have ornate decorations. From the she-wolf and deer, to dragons and ship wheels, each fountain has its own unique design. And yes, even though these look more decorative than functional, the water is still a part of Rome’s regulated drinking water system.



Ancient Roman times had wandering water-sellers, the ‘aquarii’. More recent times had ‘acquacetosari’ – ‘a small association of hawkers, mixing their call with two or three hundred other cries which for centuries turned the silent Roman streets into a noisy hive of worker bees.’ In the ‘er nasone’ the same ancient-or-not-so-ancient water-seller re-emerges as a short cast-iron pillar-shaped robot, complete with cap, SPQR insignia and, yes, a protuberant nose.

Rome’s fountains are both beautiful and practical. Carved by world renowned sculptors they were used to bring essential water into the city for citizens to share. In 98 AD the roman consul was first termed as guardian of the city’s water supply and from then on providing water to its people has been part of Rome’s job. At the time Rome had nine aqueducts that provided water to thirty-nine monumental fountains, 591 public basins and an array of royal villas. The degree of sophistication seen in ancient Rome’s water supply system is astounding. After Rome fell the aqueducts were damaged, and were reconstructed in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Mass-produced from the 1920s onwards, this does not mean that Rome’s 2500 nasoni cannot assume personal identities of their own. One nasone in Pigneto is coated with the orange and yellow colours of AC Roma; further on, another has turned green. Others come with a large saucer below so that dogs can enjoy the fountain too.



Drink water in Rome

The spout is an engineering masterpiece. A small hole at the top and the water’s strong pressure allow for practical drinking. Plugging the main spout with the palm of your hand causes the water to pour upwards out of this hole in a perfect drinking arch. Kids love to drink from nasoni, because they participate in the spectacular acrobatics and get irreparably wet and giggly.



Ancient Roman Fountains

Each nasone is marked with the traditional Roman S.P.Q.R. The initials stand for the Latin phrase, Senatus PopulusQue Romanus (“The Senate and the People of Rome”), referring to the government of the ancient Roman Republic, and used as an official signature of the government. S.P.Q.R. is the motto of the city of Rome and appears in the city’s coat of arms, as well as on many of the city’s civic buildings, manhole covers, and municipal establishments. The water that flows abundantly from the nasoni is licensed by the city of Rome. That’s why Romans call it l’acqua del sindaco, the mayor’s water.

Find the Nasone more close to you!